2020 Australian Grand Prix PreviewMarch 6, 2020
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (March 6, 2020) – The FIA Formula One World Championship is celebrating its 70th anniversary in the 2020 season and Haas F1 Team is ready to get the long-awaited new season underway commencing with the Australian Grand Prix, in Albert Park, Melbourne.
Pre-season testing provided the opportunity for Haas F1 Team to gather plenty of data and understanding from its 2020 Formula One car, the VF-20. Veteran racers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen – forming Haas F1 Team’s driver line-up for a fourth successive season – collaborated to complete 676 laps (3146.78 km) of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya across six days of testing (Feb. 19 to 21, Feb 26. to 28), allowing everyone to get back into the rhythm ahead of a potentially record-breaking season.
The first of 22 planned stops on the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship calendar will be at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, a street-based layout that incorporates the sweeping curves of the leafy Albert Park, located in the southern suburbs of Victoria’s state capital. The 16-turn 5.303km-long (3.295-mile) circuit leaves little room for error due to the gravel traps and walls that line the edge of the tarmac while the track evolution through the weekend is high due to the infrequent use of the venue, posing a stern first test for teams and drivers alike.
For Magnussen Albert Park marks a return to the scene of his sensational debut in 2014, when the fresh-faced Dane stunned the Formula One paddock by lining up fourth on the grid, from where he charged to a maiden podium, classifying second in the race. It was one of the rare occasions in which a debutant went home with silverware and the achievement has not since been replicated.
And in terms of sensational debuts then Haas F1 Team’s very own first foray into the world of Formula 1 remains a piece of history. Grosjean scored sixth place in 2016 to pick up eight championship points that proved the catalyst for a fine rookie campaign for Haas F1 Team. Last season Magnussen mirrored that result to start the 2019 campaign on a positive note.
The Australian Grand Prix will take place across March 15 to 17, with two practice sessions on Friday, final practice and qualifying on Saturday, and the 58-lap season-opening race on Sunday. Lights out is scheduled for 16:10 local time (00:10 EST / 05:10 GMT).
Having had time to reflect, what are your thoughts on the condensed six-day test format hosted at Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya and given the levels of reliability showcased, could you see further cuts to testing in the future?
“I think six days worked out pretty well. At this time, I don’t see the need to cut it even less, should you have a problem you wouldn’t recover. With six days, if you lose one, you’ve still got five at least. It gets tight if you cut to fewer days than that. We’ve seen that we’ve all improved our reliability, maybe we just got lucky, but next year we’ll see where that goes. For sure though, we all arrived well prepared and everybody just did the same job in six days that we used to do in eight. I would definitely stick with six.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
While teams often state they don’t know where they stack up following pre-season testing – what specifically do you know after six busy days accruing laps in Spain with the VF-20?
“One thing is sure this year, in terms of what we can see after testing, is that the midfield is very tight. I can’t say where we stack up in the midfield, maybe somebody else can, but it’s very difficult to predict. We’ll just find out when we go qualifying in Melbourne.”
Looking into Haas F1 Team’s results at the Australian Grand Prix it’s a blend of extreme highs – notably the famed sixth place finish for Grosjean on the team’s debut in 2016, and frustrating lows – double retirement in 2018. All that combined with the event being the first time each new car truly races, what emotions do you go through arriving in Melbourne and as the weekend unfolds?
“Melbourne is always the unknown for me. We’ve had fantastic results there and we’ve been on our way to some strong results before we messed up. We’ve really had a little bit of everything there. I always like to go to Melbourne, even with the mixed results. I always find it an interesting race; you never know what you’re getting out of it.”
Melbourne is celebrating its 25th anniversary as a Formula One venue – what is it about the race, in your opinion, that’s been the key to its longevity and what moments stand out for you from Melbourne’s Formula One heritage?
“I think it’s fantastic that Melbourne’s celebrating 25 years. It’s an event that’s well executed and well planned. The people are very welcoming and it’s a fantastic location. It’s one of my favorite events on the calendar. With it being the first event of the year, the excitement level is always high, as are the expectations. The moment that obviously stands out, for me at least, is our sixth-place finish there in 2016 – our first season in F1. Nobody believed in us, or that we could pull off a result like that, but we did it. Melbourne, for me, will always be a great event.”